Garden path: From boring to beautiful
Big houses on narrow lots are common in new suburbs. Often, the only way to get from the front yard to the back is by walking along a stretch of concrete pads supplied by the builder.
Here's an idea that makes use of the boring concrete pads, and also allows room for plants. First, consider installing a fence along the property line to define the space and provide a structure for hanging half-pots and vines. Next, space out the pads so they look like giant steppingstones, instead of a concrete sidewalk, and stagger them for more visual interest. In the photo of the 122-centimetre-wide path above, they're laid end-to-end with an eight-centimetre gap between each 60- by 74-centimetre pad.
The proximity of plants, soil and water should tone down the white concrete path quickly, especially if it's in the shade. To speed up the process, coat the pads with a thin paste of plain yogurt or buttermilk mixed with soil or composted manure. Mist daily with water to encourage mould.
The narrow strips of soil (varying from 24 to 38 centimetres) on either side of these pads may seem too confining for plants, but it's surprising how well they adapt. This area holds seven clematis and three variegated euonymus on the fence side, and two euonymus on the garage. Other perennials include chives, violets, yellow fumitory (Corydalis lutea), miniature hostas and lady's mantle. A raised bed near the steps into the house holds a few vegetable plants and herbs. A vigorous hop vine covers the arbour over the metal gate and golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularlia ‘Aurea') blankets the bare spots.